On January 23rd, 2013, in light of the Sandy Hook tragedy, President Obama announced that federal funds would be allocated for school districts to hire either counselors or police officers in schools. Our letter to Senator Durbin is below.
CHOOSE COUNSELORS, NOT POLICE
Dear Senator Durbin,
The tragedy and loss that resulted from the Sandy Hook shootings naturally present questions about the best ways to keep our youth safe in Illinois schools. It also creates an opportunity for us to progress from the harsh disciplinary policies in Chicago public schools that criminalize and push youth out of the school system, towards a culture that is a supportive, more restorative, healthy approach to dealing with barriers these youth increasingly face in their schools.
As a Senator who is a proponent of restorative practices we are confident you will see this as an opportunity that could allow for an increase in much needed mental health professionals, social workers, counselors and restorative justice practitioners in Chicago schools. These professionals can provide the support our youth need socially and emotionally, to survive the daily trauma they experience as a result of the economic reality and racially inequality that persist in many Chicago communities.
The research is clear; more police in schools does not increase safety rather, creates a hostile environment, preparing youth for prison over college or productive adulthood. Importantly, the funds used to increase police presence will divert much needed money that could otherwise go to trauma education, prevention programs and mental health counseling in our schools. A recent report by the Justice Policy Institute “Education Under Arrest”, showed that the excessive and inappropriate reliance on school-based law enforcement officers can actually promote disorder and distrust in schools (http://www.justicepolicy.org/research/3177).
As a leader who convened the first ever hearing about the school-to-prison pipeline in December 2012, we know that you understand these issues better than most. As our Senator, we are asking that you add your voice to ours asking the Illinois State Board of Education and the Chicago Public Schools to commit to using ANY NEW FEDERAL FUNDS received for school safety from the President’s gun reform proposals to be used to hire more counselors, not cops. We also ask that you speak up for Federal funding that can be used to implement restorative justice programs in our schools.
Please release a statement reflecting your thoughts on this matter. As residents of Illinois, we appreciate your advocacy and continued leadership on these issues.